The Mangalarga Marchador is of good size with an average height of over 15 hands and weighing 900 to 1100 pounds. Most colors are represented in the breed with grays, bays and chestnuts being the most popular. The horses are well known for their keen intelligence, docile nature, undying stamina and regal bearing, but most of all, for their incredibly smooth and fluid ride even at high speeds.
The head is triangular in shape with a straight profile and rounded over the nose region, typical of the Barb horse. The coat is fine and silky and the mane and tail are full. The neck is of medium length, sufficient for the horse to be well balanced for riding and reining. It is well arched and muscular, inserted in the top third of the chest to allow for a proud, high carriage. The thorax is deep and allows for great lung capacity, one of the reasons for the legendary stamina of the breed. The back is of medium length with short and well muscled loins. The gaskin and forearm tend to be long, well muscled and articulated and the cannons are short. The pasterns and hooves are at the slightly lower angle typical of Spanish horses. This allows him to overreach well and without excessive stress to his suspensories.
The Mangalarga Marchador has two special gaits or marchas: the marcha picada and the marcha batida. Which gait is superior is always subject to debate and it seems to boil down to the personal preference of the individual breeder.
In Portuguese, picada stands for a light touch and of the two marchas, the marcha picada is a bit smoother. It is a broken pace and therefore creates little vertical movement. This gait is characterized by the movement of the animal’s legs in a lateral sequence, with periods of triple hooves support. The main advantage of this lateral four beat gait is its greater smoothness resulting from the periods of triple hooves support and from the overreach. The gait can be sustained for long periods of time, allowing the rider hours of enjoyable riding with little discomfort. The timing of foot falls is similar to the paso llano of the Peruvian Paso Horse.
Batida means to hit and describes the gait considered to be a broken trot. It is characterized by the movements of the legs in a diagonal pattern, also with moments of triple support and a four beat sequence. This gait, unlike a trot, shows very little suspension (all the legs in the air) as the horses are always in contact with the ground. This creates stability and smoothness. The longer and more frequent the moments of triple hooves support are, the more comfortable the gait will be. On flat ground, performing the batida at a normal speed, the hind foot overreaches the track of the forefoot on the same side, adding to the smoothness of the ride. In this gait the timing of the footfalls is similar to the trocha gait seen in Colombian Horses.
Performance and Versatility
The Mangalarga Marchador is very versatile and can fulfill many functions and perform a variety of tasks. They include the management of large agricultural farms and cattle ranches and a number of non specialized sports, such as cutting, endurance riding, trail and pleasure riding, jumping and polo.
In 1994, two 60-year-old Brazilian men completed a 8,694 miles trail ride to prove the stamina of the breed. For one and a half years they rode all day and rested at night, all with the same horses. This was a defiance for the breed and the feat was recorded in The Guiness Book of World Records.
With its legendary stamina, excellent cow sense, great versatility and supported by the growing popularity of smooth riding gaited breeds, the Mangalarga Marchador is sure to be a great success here as well.